High-tech Oranges and Big Pharma Blueberries: Industrialising Freshness in Global Agriculture

By Jo Tomkinson|December 4, 2015|Agriculture, Uncategorized|3 comments

Christopher Cramer is Professor of the Political Economy of Development at the SOAS Department of Development Studies. His recent work has included the DfID funded project Fairtrade, Employment and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia and Uganda.

I recently asked the owner of a blueberry producing firm in South Africa whether he would consider the packet of fresh plump blueberries on the table between us a manufactured product. After all, the berries embodied the technology of genetic variety development (in California), carefully monitored planting, weeding, spraying and advanced irrigation technology, not to mention post-harvest care and packaging. ‘More than that’, he said, rolling a blueberry between his fingers ‘this is a pill – blueberries are part of big pharma’. With their superfood kudos, blueberries get the company a lot of free advertising.

So a blueberry is a high-tech pharmaceutical product, a pill. Meanwhile, a fresh orange bought in a Europe or the US has more technology embedded within in it, is higher value, and is more ‘processed’ in some respects, than a carton of orange juice squashed from poorer quality oranges.

Globally, agriculture is not only big business – it is also industrial business. It encompasses the increasing use of the genetics of plant stock, water-saving micro and nano irrigation, waste-reducing targeted nutrient supply and pesticide application and post-harvest ‘ripening facilities’. It also entails the need for new IT systems to monitor and ensure traceability of every batch of avocados, macadamia nuts or oranges to meet demanding phyto-sanitary regulations, the complex logistics and infrastructure of packhouses, ports and airport cold storage, as well as sophisticated advances in packaging, labelling, and branding. All these processes and technologies amount to the industrialisation of freshness.

France Returns to the State of Exception

By Jo Tomkinson|December 4, 2015|Conflict, Uncategorized|0 comments

Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations in the SOAS Department of Development Studies. His most recent books are Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism and The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising.

The discourse of war is already upon us. But it must be resisted.

French President François Hollande’s reaction to the terrorist outrage that struck again at the heart of Paris has been to declare war — just as George W. Bush did in the face of “the mother of all terrorist attacks” that struck the heart of New York.

By doing this, the French president has chosen to ignore the many criticisms of the Bush administration’s choice, even though these expressed the prevailing opinion in France itself at that time. And he did so despite the fact that the disastrous balance sheet of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” well justified its critics. Sigmar Gabriel himself, the German vice-chancellor and head of the Social Democratic Party, brother party of the French Socialists, has declared that talk of war only plays into the hands of ISIS.

Valletta Summit: Aid For Africa Is Not the Solution to the Refugee Crisis

By Jo Tomkinson|December 4, 2015|Migration, Uncategorized|0 comments

Laura Hammond is a Reader in Development Studies and Head of Department at the SOAS Department of Development Studies. Her research interests include food security, conflict, forced migration and diasporas.

Giving more development aid to Africa may be a good idea, but the proposition that it will be an effective way of stemming the flow of migrants out of Africa towards Europe is deeply flawed.

At the recent Valletta Migration Summit between European and African leaders in Malta, the European Union announced the establishment of an Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to promote stability and to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement. The EU has pledged 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion) and has asked member states to make additional contributions to match that amount.

The funds are to be spent on an array of activities including generating employment opportunities, reintegrating returnees, providing basic services for local populations, and promoting environmental sustainability. Money will also be directed at law enforcement, border management, containing and preventing irregular migration, combatting trafficking and smuggling and countering radicalisation and extremism.